Motivation is one of the most crucial factors involved in any successful weight loss program. You may have all the tools you need to succeed – the right diet plan, the help of a successful weight loss clinic, the knowledge of why maintaining a healthy weight is vital to your health – in your arsenal, but if you don’t have motivation, none of the other factors really matter. In many cases, motivation is not a concrete term. Your motivation may fluctuate from day to day. Some days you may feel especially motivated, while other days, particularly the dog days of summer, are especially tough. So what is motivation? Where does it come from and how do you get (and keep) it? All very good questions.
What is Motivation?
The official definition of motivation is “the general desire or willingness of someone to do something”, but this isn’t really clear enough. There needs to be more of an emphasis on the “willingness” part of the definition. Sure, you may have a desire to lose weight, but if you’re not willing to make the effort or put in the work to get there, then you’re going to have a really hard time reaching your goals. Motivation is what allows you to overcome any challenges or obstacles put in front of you in order to reach your goals.
Types of Motivation
There are two main types of motivation: extrinsic and intrinsic. Extrinsic motivation is the type of motivation that comes from outside sources. With weight loss, examples of extrinsic motivation may be compliments from others, fitting into that outfit you bought just a little too tight, or extra attention from the opposite sex. Intrinsic motivation is the type of motivation that comes from within. When you lose weight, you feel good. Your confidence levels may increase and you may just be a happier person in general. These are all examples of intrinsic motivation. As a general rule, most people are driven by extrinsic motivation, but the key to staying motivated in a weight loss program is to put more emphasis on yourself – and the motivation that comes from within you.
Set Goals (and Meet Them)
One of the most important things you need to do to stay motivated is set goals. Realistic, concrete goals. Saying “I want to lose weight” isn’t enough. You need to be specific and give yourself a realistic timeline to reaching your goals. For example, you may say I want to lose 8 pounds in 30 days. Or I want to exercise 5 days a week for the next 4 weeks. The point is to make the goals specific and attainable. If you give yourself vague goals with no real timeline, you’re more likely to lose motivation and veer off track. Saying “I want to lose weight”, but providing no real timeline gives you the option to keep saying “I’ll start eventually”. Set your goals in stone by writing them down. Another vital component of setting goals is to make them realistic. If your goals are unrealistic, you’re basically setting yourself up for failure, and when you fail at a goal, you lose motivation. Don’t tell yourself that you’re going to lose 30 pounds in 30 days or that you’re going to run a marathon in the next 3 months if you’ve barely walked a mile in the last 3 years. Setting goals and meeting them makes you feel good and boosts your self-confidence – boosting intrinsic motivation in the process.
Reward Yourself (You’re Worth It)
Rewarding yourself when you meet a goal is a double whammy when it comes to motivation. You meet a goal, which makes you feel good inside, so you get yourself a gift, which is an outside, or extrinsic, source of motivation. The gift makes you feel good, so you set another goal, which you meet; you feel good, and then you reward yourself with another gift. Are you still with me? Every time you meet one of your small goals, reward yourself with something that will make you feel good. When you lose 5 pounds, treat yourself to a pedicure. When you stick to your exercise regimen for two weeks, give yourself a Sunday off to sit outside or watch a movie. When you fit into the pants that were too tight for you, buy yourself that new blender you’ve been eyeing. Just make sure that your reward is not food. You don’t want to reward yourself for losing 5 pounds by binging on pizza and ice cream. Food is sustenance, not a reward.
Let’s be honest – if something isn’t fun, you’re probably not going to stick to it long term. Boredom is a big reason that people on a weight loss program lose motivation. If you don’t like running, get off that treadmill. If you think kale is the worst food on the face of the earth, don’t force yourself to eat it. When it comes to diet and exercise, there are PLENTY of options for you. Forcing yourself to do things that you don’t like or eat things that make you cringe is counterproductive. Find activities that you like and experiment with healthy, whole foods until you’ve developed a recipe collection that you really enjoy. The key is to WANT to get up in the morning to go to that yoga class you love and to look forward to your healthy dinner. Make weight loss a fun adventure, and convince a friend or family member to come along for the ride.
If you find yourself starting to lose motivation, take a minute to have a conversation with yourself. Sit down and remind yourself of all of the reasons you started on this journey in the first place. Take an honest look at your weight loss regimen and make some changes if you don’t feel fulfilled. You might need to change your exercise routine or try some new foods. Whatever it is, you can meet your goals if you’re able to combine desire with the willingness to put in the work.